The Leaving of Liverpool - The Foggy Dew, Pt. 3: an Ireland Kaiserreich AAR

Author: hoyarugby
Published: 2017-07-09, edited: 2017-07-09

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Game: Hearts of Iron IV

The Foggy Dew

Images: 47, author: hoyarugby, published: 2017-06-04

"So fare thee well, my own true love,
For when I return, united we will be
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,
But my darling when I think of thee"

Christmas, 1944. The Second Weltkrieg has ravaged the globe. Ireland has shocked the world by forcing the Union of Britain, a state vastly more wealthy, industrial, powerful, and populous, to capitulate. After the underdog Irish navy destroyed the last remnants of the Internationale's naval presence in the Channel, elite Irish paratroopers, marines, and armored forces in southern England prepare to cross the seas once again, rather than join the meatgrinder on the Franco-German border. Huge army camps dot southern England, and Irish reconnaissance aircraft are a constant presence over northern France

However, it seems that the holiday season will be a quiet one. It will be months before the overworked factories in Belfast and Dublin can produce enough landing craft for an invasion to be possible, and the weather is bad. Training exercises are cancelled, and many are able to celebrate Christmas at home, and the New Years in a pub.
The plan for Operation Sledgehammer, as it stood on New Years' 1945.
German heavy fighter, 1945. The German courier bringing crucial intelligence to Mulcachy couldn't even wait for a transport plane, and traveled in the gunner's seat of a fighter like this

However, the tranquility of the New Years' was decisively broken near the stroke of midnight. An entire squadron of German fighters escorted a senior German officer, carrying a message too sensitive even for coded transmissions. Landing in southern England, the officer approached his confused (and not more than a little drunk) Irish counterparts at a near run. Minutes after, the few sober duty officers, ashen faced, immediately raced to fish their superiors out of pubs and bars.

Richard Mulcachy, head of the Irish Expeditionary Force, was pulled out of a Portsmouth pub and into a meeting with the German officer. Within five minutes, he called to arrange a flight to Cork. Within ten, he ordered Collins to be found. Within twenty minutes the transport was in the air, escorted by a squadron each of German and Irish fighters
Cork, 1944. Michael Collins' hometown and the honorary capital of Irish independence, Cork flourished during the years before Irish intervention in the Weltkrieg, becoming Ireland's third city after Dublin and Belfast.

Michael Collins had retired to his native Cork for the New Years', and with the expected quiet, had decided to spend the night in a small pub with only a few close aides for company.

It took local officials in Cork nearly an hour to find their Taoiseach, with Mulcachy already over the Irish Sea. Once he was found, the pub was cleared out and transformed into a temporary command post.
The Abbeville Gap, New Years' 1945

Mulcachy's command car screeched to a stop outside the Sin É pub in Cork around 3 AM.

Mulcachy wasted no time in relaying the urgent message. German forces in Northern France had discovered that the French had mostly abandoned their forts and bunkers along the Somme River. Only a thin shell defense force remained, and German infantry probes had already captured three major positions that had held off five divisions just a few months ago. The move seemed to be inadvertent, rather than a trap.

However, the Germans could not exploit the Syndicalist mistake. Their limited armor formations were hundreds of miles away, engaged in heavy fighting in the Rhineland or White Russia. German infantry would do their best, but they expected to do little but capture some French forward positions before the French dug in again. Within two weeks, whatever gains German infantry made would be wasted and the French defenses would be solid again.

The Kaiser had sent a personal appeal to Collins: send the IEF and their flying columns over to Flanders. With Irish tanks and motorized infantry punching through the hole left at Abbeville, French defensive positions throughout Northern France would be severely compromised.

After a short conversation with Mulcachy, Collins gave the order: "Sober the lads up, we're headed for France"
Abbeville, New Years' 1945. German propaganda footage showing skeleton French forces surrendering to the Kaiser's infantry
Irish tanks moving toward staging grounds in Southern England on January 2nd, 1945

Telephone and telegraph messages flashed across the Irish Sea, and soon half drunk officers were rousing their completely drunk soldiers, telling them that they'd be moving at 6 AM the next morning. Mulcachy and his staff planned the movement of hundreds of thousands of men from a Cork pub, and sure enough the next morning the Irish army moved.

Infantry divisions for the most part couldn't be pulled from their occupation duties, as the all-female military police forces were not yet available, but Irish tanks clogged the muddy winter roads of southern England. Hungover and still-drunk drivers navigated the morass of mud, compounded by syndicalist sympathizers changing or removing signposts. It was chaos, but it worked.

When they finally reached the ports, they were confronted by another problem. The Irish merchant marine was not by any means prepared to move such a huge force on almost no notice. Every cargo ship that could float and carry a tank or truck was pressed into service, and the army set out for Belgium. Not a few ships were towed all the way across the Channel by London harbor tugs as their engines failed.
Irish transport ships beaching themselves in Calais, January 4th 1945

When the armada reached Belgium, they were confronted by another problem: the Belgian ports were in no shape to unload more than a few divisions of such a huge fleet in time. Ever enterprising, the transports were ordered to simply beach themselves on the flat, sandy beaches of Calais, and the tanks and trucks would drive out. On ships not intended for beach landings, engineers blasted holes in their hull and created crude ramps with the wreckage.

The herculean effort succeeded. Within a week of the fateful New Years' message, twenty five Irish Flying Columns were on the front lines of Northern France.

Operation Jubilee, as it was known, was an unqualified success.
The frontline in Northern France upon the commencement of Operation Yeats, January 7th 1945

Irish tanks rushed into position. With the Somme crossed and the main French defenses along the coast bypassed, the entire French line was in chaos. Although an improvised defense had been thrown up around the Abbeville Gap, it was not enough. Unprepared for a major armored attack, French, Soviet, and exiled British forces crumbled under attack from Irish and German forces.
Tanks of the "Lucky" 13th Flying Column (Derry) advancing in Northern France as a part of Operation Yeats

Anti-aircraft fire over Paris, 1945

Late in the evening of January 8th, another opportunity presented itself. Intelligence reports revealed that all major French combat formations had withdrawn from Paris, moving to the front to try and contain the Irish advance. All that was left were the crews of anti-aircraft batteries, civil defense forces, gendarmes, and poorly equipped militias, by this point in the war mostly consisting of invalids, wounded men, old men and young boys.

Despite being caught off guard, Tom Barry's airborne forces were thrust into action, before the moment was lost
Irish paratroopers before setting out for Paris, night of January 8th 1945

To avoid excessive casualties from Paris' heavy AAA, German and Irish air forces conducted a massive raid on the city, drawing attention, while the transport planes, their prop noise camouflaged by the heavy bombers and exploding shells, snuck in low. The drop was hazardous, with the already low drop height compounded by the buildings, streetlamps, trees and rubble of a major city, but Ireland's elite forces managed.

Despite the transport aircraft taking heavy casualties after, the drop was a qualified success, with the paratroopers disorganized, but still successfully established on the ground. Barracks and AAA emplacements were quickly destroyed or captured by bands of paratroopers.

By midnight some level of order was established, with Irish forces in control of most of the important areas of the city, though the forces manning the checkpoints were usually a mishmash of different divisions rather than cohesive units.
The French 120th Division counterattacks into Paris, morning of January 9th 1945

The paratroopers soon faced a major challenge, as a full French division already en route to Paris began making a major push across the Seine, overrunning the southern half of the city and taking the Notre Dame in heavy fighting.
Irish paratroopers fighting in Paris, January 9th 1945

However, the 120th Division was a rear-echelon force who had been planning to recuperate in Paris. The disorganized Irish were still better equipped than the French with gliderborne artillery and other weaponry, and outnumbered them. The furthest the French counterattack got was the Quai d'Orsay, and Irish paratroopers eventually blasted them out of the building using direct fire from howitzers.

The Notre Dame was retaken, and bands of paratroopers still remained in the French rear, throwing their communications into chaos.
The Fall of Paris, January 9th 1945

By midday on the 9th, the French counterattack from the south had been pushed back. Hastily thrown together attacks from the north and west were stopped in their tracks.

However, all was not rosy for Irish forces in the city. They were still badly disorganized, had taken heavy casualties, and were a tiny minority in an enormous city, the beating heart of world syndicalism and center of the French government (although most of the city's important functions had been moved months ago, as it was feared that the city could fall to a determined German attack).

Given time, the French could arrange a counterattack, coordinate with partisans inside the city, and crush the Irish.
Irish paratroopers and tankers meet in the Paris suburbs, January 10th 1945

Thankfully for the paratroopers, the IEF was coming to the rescue. The Fall of Paris only accellerated the collapse of French forces on the northern French front, and Irish tankers quickly overran French defenses and opened up a corridor into Paris itself.

The above picture shows an Irish paratrooper and tanker shaking hands in Paris. It was widely reproduced as propaganda, purported to show the end of Syndicalism (or a reason to fight even harder for other Syndicalists). However, the actual first meeting took place around midnight on the 9th, as a platoon of female-crewed tanks from the 9th Flying Column helped paratroopers clear the last French holdouts from the La Defense area
The frontline after the Fall of Paris, late night January 9th 1945

With the Fall of Paris, the French frontline quickly collapsed. The original objective for Operation Yeats was the Seine River, but Irish and German forces were soon able to push across the river in a dozen places, capturing bridges intact. Some began to hope that the French were collapsing all along the line, and the war would be over in a matter of weeks
The frontline by January 22nd, 1945

However, Irish and German forces had overextgended themselves. By late January 1945, the grand advance had bogged down, with crucial supplies still unloading in Belgian ports and bad weather making roads almost impassable.

Irish planners had devised a new Operation, Parnell, aimed at pushing the frontline to the Loire River. However, as Irish forces entered the difficult terrain and hedgerows of Normandy, French resistance stiffened. Reinforcements had been shifted from the Italian and Spanish fronts, the French push into the Rhineland had been abandoned, and most importantly 100,000 Syndicalist troops (primarily exiled British and Soviet) still held out in Le Havre, and a breakout from that pocket could spell disaster for Ireland

Mulcachy called a halt to the advance. The Le Havre pocket would be closed, supplies and reinforcements would catch up to the flying columns, the paratroopers would rest and refit, and then Operation Parnell would be undertaken.
The Le Havre pocket, January 1945.

Exiled British troops and foreign volunteers held out tenaciously against Irish and German forces, buying time for their French comrades and hoping for rescue. They held crucial ports that were needed to support the Irish advance (French and Belgian infrastructure was badly damaged), and the Irish army could not advance further with such a threat in their rear
British exile troops surrendering after the fall of the Le Havre pocket, mid-February 1945

The Le Havre pocket held out for a month, beyond all expectations. With their blood, the troops in the pocket bought France precious time to re-constitute their defensive lines. Although the Loire River was not far in many places, the French defense was tenacious.
The aftermath of a failed Irish attack in Normandy, February 1945

French troops were aided by the terrain. Normandy was exceptional defensive territory, with meters thick hedgerows functioning as ready built trenches and bunkers. It seemed that every field held a machinegun, mortar, and anti-tank gun, and all attacks resulted in a fearful loss of life for minimal ground gained

Collins had feared exactly this situation, where tiny Ireland would be drawn into a meatgrinder-style war of attrition. France and Germany could sustain it, Ireland could not. Something needed to be done
Operation Celtic, February 1945

That something was Operation Celtic. Intelligence revealed that the temporary hub of French military operations in the north was the Breton port town of Brest, guarded by a significant force. If it were cut off and destroyed, French forces would be thrown into chaos, and would be vulnerable to attack.

The plan was simple. Airborne forces, newly rested and retrofitted, would land at the neck of the Breton peninsula, cutting French communications to the rest of the army and stopping supplies to Brest. Irish marines, idling in Plymouth for two months now, would make a daring assault on the port itself, supported by land-based attacks from the paratroopers. The Irish navy would provide fire support, as would the air force
The progress of Operation Celtic, March 2nd 1945

The operation was approved on March 1st, and it was undertaken on the night of March 2nd.

The initial airborne drops went well. The southern and northern roads, running through the towns of Quimper and Morlaix, were quickly secured. However, French forces along the main transit route through the middle of the peninsula were quick to react, and included, disastrously, a brigade of heavy tanks.

Both the northern and southern landings immediately attacked the center of the peninsula, hoping to clear the way for their fellows who would be landing soon.
Irish paratroopers in Mûr-de-Bretagne, morning of March 3rd 1945

The town of Mûr-de-Bretagne was the key to the French supply and communication route out of Brittany. Both sides recognized this quickly, and French forces repelled several spirited Irish attacks from both the north and south. It only fell after four divisions of paratroopers and gliders were dropped almost on top of the town, forcing the brigade of tanks holding it to retreat. The road to Brest was finally cut, and by midday of the 3rd, Irish paratroopers had dug in along the length of Brittany and began to attack Brest's landward defenses.
Operation Celtic on the eve of March 4th, 1945

The Irish paratroopers were in a precarious position. As was the case for most airborne invasions, the majority of their gliderborne equipment was not useable. Many were relying on captured French equipment and supplies to continue fighting, and once French armored forces regrouped in a day or two, there was little they could do. With the rough seas in Brittany preventing a naval evacuation, only the marines could save them
Irish marines storming the city of Brest, March 3rd 1945

And come to their rescue the Marines did. Despite extremely heavy resistance, the marines under O'Duffy's command forced their way onto the beaches to the north and south of the city, soon maneuvering mortars and pack artillery to fire on the port itself. The heavy cruisers of the navy raked the town with their 8 inch guns, and a beachead was established
Reinforcements landing near Brest, Marc h 4th 1945

The fighting was brutal. The Irish forces were evenly matched by the Syndicalist forces, and the Syndicalists were dug in deep. Only attacks from multiple directions and heavy fire support enabled the Irish to take Brest, house by house, even though it took nearly a week.

But the attack on Brittany was only one part of Operation Celtic. Once Brest was cut off, the entire IEF went into action, and panicked calls by French frontline commanders went unanswered. It took nearly a full day before the news filtered down to the front and alternate communications were established, and by then it was too late. Irish forces smashed holes in the French defensive line, and innovative technology like the "Rhino" that enabled tanks to break hedgerows sealed the fate of the French defensive line. 50,000 French troops were captured in Cherbourg before they could even sabotage the large port there, and by March 8th Irish tankers linked up with the beleaguered paratroopers in Brittany.

Onward, to the Loire!
The conclusion of Operations Celtic and Parnell, March 13th 1945.

By mid-March it was all over. The last French forces north of the Loire river were being pushed out of St. Nazaire, and soon the paratroopers and marines could retire for a well deserved rest...

Or not.

Despite their utter collapse in northern France to Irish forces and concurrent German and Italian advances, the French refused to surrender. With Marseilles under serious Italian threat and Lyon at risk, the last major French city was Bordeaux. The French government and military had installed themselves there, and it held much of the remaining industry that supplied Syndicalist forces across France and Spain. Irish and German analysts agreed that, were the city to fall, France would be forced to surrender.

They also concluded that it would probably be possible for Irish and German troops to force their way across the Loire and take the city by assault eventually. However, it would be expensive in lives and time consuming, and Irish planners decided on an alternative, modeled after Operation Celtic:

Operation Platanaget
While Ireland fought and died in Flanders once again, an arguably more profound war was taking place at home.

Irish women in the workplace was nothing new. Indeed, by this point most industries were majority women, except, according to a popular Irish joke of the time, bartenders and priests, and the priests weren't too far off.

Indeed, Irish women were making up a large part of even the Irish military. Basically every rear echelon position was filled by women by March 1945, as another 100,000 men were killed in the fighting in France, and more than a few combat positions as well.

Yet, despite the ubiquitous position of women in industry (and more) they were still more vulnerable to exploitation than others. Safety regulations were more enforced for men, as the authorities were concerned about potential conscripts losing a finger or hand to the press or needle, but female workers did not elicit the same concern. Women were losing fingers in textile factories, getting jaundice from cordite plants, and burned by steel smelters,

Such a situation was untenable, and in February 1945 Collins inaugurated a Commission on Female Industrial Rights, that was expected to deliver damning results that would force through reforms that would protect female as well as male workers, despite resistance from more conservative sectors like the Church.

The emancipation of Irish women continued at a breakneck pace. Ireland had a war to win, both at home and abroad
A picture of a young Michael Collins

With the front in France once again stable, Irish leadership could once again afford to turn their attention to the global war against Syndicalism.
Iberia, March 1945

In Spain, Entente forces, especially the exiled Canadians, seemed to be collapsing. However, the transfer of French reinforcements north may stall the CNT-FAL advance long enough for the Irish and Germans to save their bacon and end Barcelona's tyranny
Anarchist Spanish troops celebrating the imminent fall of Valencia, 1945
North America, March 1945

The situation in America continued to be abysmal. Despite tenacious resistance from Canadian and Pacific forces, the endless armies of the CSA slowly but surely are forcing their way through the Rocky Mountain redoubts of both countries.

Most frighteningly, CSA troops had finally pushed across the deserts and mountains of Arizona, and set foot in California for the first time. San Diego was on the front lines, and if it fell, Syndicalist troops could sweep up the coast and central valley of California, seizing the PSA's main population and industrial regions, bypassing the rocky mountain defenses altogether
PSA infantry retreating into California, March 1945
China, March 1945

The war in China continued to deteriorate for Mittleuropa. Canton and its surroundings had fallen to a determined Japanese invasion. Republican Chinese forces fight on despite losing their capital, and are aided by the heavy mountains, hills, and jungles of Southern China. Still, the loss of Canton is a heavy blow, and with the fall of Vietnam, Thai forces can begin to flood north to assist.
Republican Chinese soldiers manning a machine gun, 1945
The Eastern Front, January 1945

At first glance, the Eastern Front looked promising. Ukrainian and German forces were not far from Moscow, Petrograd was under serious Finnish and Mittleuropan threat, and the Soviets were unable to mount a serious counterattack.
The Baltic Front, January 1945

However, a closer glance revealed a horror: the Battle of Narva
The Battle of Narva, January 1945

Over two million men, the pride of Mittleuropa, tried to force their way across the narrow front at Narva. Opposed by just five Soviet divisions

Although the battle was not difficult, the narrow front meant that only a few Mittleuropan divisions could participate at a time. Most soldiers simply sat and froze in the harsh Russian winter, poorly supplied and motivated. Worse was waste of a clear opportunity along the rest of the front: if even a fraction of these wasted men were deployed near Moscow or Volgograd, both cities would have already fallen
Estonian soldiers from the United Baltic Dutchy shelter near their frozen assault gun, January 1945
The Moscow Front, February 1945

Collins' frustration was compounded by intelligence reports from Moscow. It was clear that the Soviets were extremely outstretched, and could only muster skeleton forces and local militas to man the front, even near their capital of Moscow. A dozen Baltic or Polish divisions here could have ended the Soviet Union by spring
The Eastern Front, March 1945

With the end of winter and the beginning of the Rasputina, offensive operations in Russia must be paused for the time. But the near criminal waste of troops at Narva's effects are clear.

The Soviets have lifted the Finnish siege of Petrograd and reinforced the Moscow front, although Baltic troops have finally forced their way across Narva and Lake Lagoda
German troops parading through Paris, February 1945

It appears for some that the Second Weltkrieg is coming to an end. German troops have paraded through Paris for the third time in a century, the French are facing a three front war and are nearly out of natural defenses, and their principal allies, Britain and Russia, have capitulated or are on their last legs.
Irish troops parading though Paris, February 1945

Ireland has done the impossible twice now, taking both London and Paris from their most implacable enemies. German infantry, previously the envy of Europe, now simply support Irish tanks and motorized troops in mopping up pockets of enemy resistance.

Another 100,000 Irishmen have fallen in France, bringing the war's total to 300,000 in just a year, 15% of Ireland's fighting-age men. Women work in every level of Irish society and fight Ireland's wars. Can Ireland sustain this war for much longer? Will the final days of France cost Ireland another 300,000 fighting men and women?

Whatever the answer, and whatever the result of the war, Ireland has ensured its place in history.

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Images: 66, author: LunarNeedle, published: 2018-04-18, edited: 1970-01-01